Tolderol wetlands: a bird mecca

Tolderol Reserve wetlands were established in the 1970’s on the edge of Lake Alexandrina near Langhorne Creek, to provide habitat for birds. In 2015 the reserve continues to attract a wide range of exciting birds. WhiteheadedStiltI

Last year 35 hectares of Tolderol were flooded during a watering trial, and an extraordinary 45 species of waterbirds and shorebirds were seen at the site. These included stately White-headed Stilts, and over 70 stunning Glossy Ibis.

“The variety of birds that made use of the wetland included nine endangered species of wader such as curlew sandpipers”, according to John Gitsham, Birds SA vice-president, “and this was a rich reward for the volunteers from 11 different groups who contributed hundreds of hours to make the trial a reality”. John also works for the Goolwa-Wellington Local Action Planning group, who coordinated the project.

“The variety of birds that made use of the wetland included nine endangered species of wader such as curlew sandpipers”

The wetlands at Tolderol have a long history of volunteer involvement, with local farmer, and long-time birder, the late John Eckert, doing much to establish the wetlands. “Today community support remains vital to ensure that the site continues to support amazing birds”, John said.

The wetlands provide shallow waters that the birds require for foraging. Many of the birds recorded on the wetland belong to a group of birds known as migratory shorebirds. These birds fly between southern Australia and the artic each year, following the long summer days. In places like Tolderol these birds are very focused on feeding and fattening up, to support their long flight back north, where they breed.

Birders also know these shorebirds as ‘waders’ because they are typically seen wading through water, searching for food. “The depth of the water each species foraging in varies depending on the length of the birds legs and bill”, John said, “and this ensures the birds aren’t all competing for the same food.”

These shorebirds once had vast areas of good feeding habitat around the shores Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, but now the shallow water and mud flats that the birds require for feeding are exposed less frequently due to regulation of the river and lake levels.

Next year the area flooded will almost double to 67 hectares of man-made wetland thanks to funding from Birds SA, the Australian Federal Government via the SA Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, and donations of materials from SA Water and Wetland Habitats Trust.

For more information or to register for volunteering opportunities and open days, contact Regina Durbridge at the Milang Lakes Hub on 0427 364 551 or email regina.durbridge@gwlap.org.au .